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A Self-Storage Operator's Guide to Negotiating Third-Party Service Contracts

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Naturally, any dishonesty will destroy a negotiation. Dishonesty or fear of discussing something is the most common problem in contract negotiations, Fawcett says.

"It may be a red flag that the relationship will not work out," adds Payne. "Trust must be built throughout the process and maintained to properly carry out the terms of any contract."

Smoothing the Process

There are several ways you can make negotiations easier and more pleasant for you and your vendor. First, start your negotiation as soon as you know what you want. You'll have more time to discuss what you need and a better chance of getting it, Dixon says.

Second, get at least three bids for any contract. Give the vendors specific information about the scope of work or product model or type. After his early contracting experience, Clark says he no longer does any work without getting at least three bids so he can compare prices and services to find the best value.

A third and enormously important part of contract negotiation is the you-get-what-you-pay-for rule. Quality of service after the sale depends on whether you’re willing to pay for it, Dixon says. The service provider needs to make a profit just as much as you do, adds Fawcett. "Negotiate terms that are beneficial to both sides, and typically both sides will be pleased with the outcome."

One way to create harmonious negotiations is by starting out positive and conceding to a request from your vendor at the beginning of the conversation, Payne says. "You want to break down the wall between each participant, and giving in to something that is beneficial to the other side extends that olive branch and creates a better atmosphere to cooperate."

Finally, never be afraid to back out before you've signed the contract. Don't make payments or approve work until the contract is signed, Zucker warns. Also, don't accept terms you’re not comfortable with or that make you or your company vulnerable, Payne adds. Self-storage operators should never feel the pressure to sign a contract at any given time. If you’re not happy, you can always walk away.

Agreement is the key to a successful negotiation, so keep that in mind going in. "Look to bring the two sides together in harmony to make it a win-win situation,” Payne advises.

Molly Bilker is a sophomore journalism major at Arizona State University in Phoenix. She is part of ASU's Barrett Honors College and completing a minor in Spanish. She comes from an arts-focused high school with a creative-writing background. She actively participates in the arts, including creative writing, guitar and vocal music, theater, photography, ballroom dance, drawing, and film. To reach her, e-mail

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